The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken a very open stance towards Israel and the Jewish people, seeking better ties. Some call this “normalization,” but I call it common sense.
To begin with, Saudi Arabia has always been a force for stability. We have always sought peace. For example, when Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait in 1990, the late King Fahd bin Abdulaziz did everything to avoid a war. Our country is prosperous; our people enjoy the luxury and welfare secured to us by mineral resources and a young crown prince who thinks outside the box. People as fortunate as we have everything to gain from seeking peace, not war.
Saudi Arabia is strong—financially, politically and militarily. We have the second-largest air force in the Middle East. We operate tactical fighter aircraft like the F-15 that provide air superiority, and we have advanced long-range missiles systems. Iran knows this. Nonetheless, we see Israel as a logical future partner for us as we have mutual enemies: Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and a handful of reckless rulers who remain in power in our region.
Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia’s quest for peace with Israel is not all smooth sailing. There is a major issue of contention: the future of the Palestinians and their right to self-determination. It is important and logical to us that Palestinians should have a state at the end of a peace process. However, anti-peace forces litter our region. An example of such a force is, sadly, the Kingdom of Jordan.
Jordan’s state media and state-controlled writers have been attacking Saudi Arabia ever since it began seeking improved relations with Israel. Jordan’s sidekick, the Palestinian Authority, has been doing the same. Palestinian intelligence officers close to P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas have been insulting Saudi Arabia and its king. This by itself is perceived as greatly humiliating in Saudi society, which sees King Salman as a father figure.
The smear campaign against Saudi Arabia is systematic, well-financed and carefully orchestrated by the Jordanian government and the P.A. And there’s a good reason for it: Both have benefited from the Arab-Israeli conflict. While Palestinian children die to become “martyrs,” Jordan’s king cruises the Mediterranean in his yacht and Abbas’s sons are likely to be found vacationing in Nova Scotia, Canada—their preferred holiday destination, I am told.
But the bigger question remains: How can we achieve peace if the Palestinian people remain without a place to call home?
The answer is simple: Jordan is already 78 percent of historical Palestine. Jordanians of Palestinian origin constitute more than 80 percent of the population according to U.S. intelligence cables leaked in 2010. Jordan is essentially already the Palestinian Arab state. The only problem is, the king of Jordan refuses to acknowledge this.
Nonetheless, the world will eventually recognize Jordan as the address for Palestinian statehood—and perhaps sooner than we think. We don’t know if the Jordanian royal family will still be in power when Jordan officially becomes Palestine, but we do know that if the royal family leaves and the Palestinian majority takes over, Jordan will officially become their homeland and we Arabs won’t feel guilty normalizing relations with Israel as another regional state.
As for the Al-Aqsa mosque, we have been financing it for over 70 years now. Saudi Arabia has donated billions of dollars to Jordan’s king and his father and grandfather, all in the name of “protecting” and “maintaining” Al-Aqsa. A quick look at the holy site is enough to show everyone that the king of Jordan has neither been maintaining nor protecting the site. The mosque is in a miserable state and unrest is always being stirred up there by the king’s appointed guards and loyalists.
We don’t need this, nor do the Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, Saudi Arabia could offer a proper custodianship of Al-Aqsa, under a new arrangement that secures the freedom of worship at the site for all. Our country has managed the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina for almost 100 years now, in the most efficient fashion. We welcome Iranian pilgrims and offer them generous services, despite Iran’s hostility and the fact that they belong to the Shi“ite sect.
We have a history of tolerance and efficiency when it comes to running holy sites. And our intervention in Al-Aqsa could solve endless problems for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Our message, as Saudis, is clear to everyone: We want a just, lasting and prosperous peace for the region. We want prosperity instead of misery, stability instead of unrest, and for love to eradicate radical ideology. These cannot be accomplished without extending a peaceful hand to the Israelis.
Abdul Hameed al-Ghabin is a Saudi writer and political analyst.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.